The house is in chaos. Boxes are everywhere. Family members are dashing hither and yon and nothing's getting done. On top of that, tempers are rising, and the knowledge that the mover's coming tomorrow doesn't help.

Welcome to the American pastime called "moving," an experience that's bad enough when you have to worry about fine china and antiques but can quickly become a nightmare when you confront your $2,000-plus personal computer system.

And there may be a lot more than money at stake. In addition to your PC, printer and disk drive, what about all those precious floppy disks or tapes filled with irreplaceable info?

Don't fret. If you follow a few simple guidelines, all will be well.

"It's not really a very complicated process," says Bob Mullin of Office Movers, Inc., a Maryland company that specializes in moving offices, more and more of which depend on personal computer systems to get their work done. "And you can make it a lot easier if you've held onto some of the boxes that your system came in."

Even more important is what you find inside those boxes that the company used to ship your computer, printer or whatnot: the styrofoam inserts that have been specially molded to fit around and protect the crucial pieces.

Manufacturers "have spent a lot of money on research to find out how to protect their products between the plant and the store," Mullin says. "They the boxes and inserts are worth saving."

So, you threw them away along with all the other Christmas trash? Dummy. But it's not too late to recoup. If you're being moved by a commercial mover, alert him to the presence of a personal computer. He'll have styrofoam "popcorn", that loose styrofoam that inevitably gets scattered all over the house when you open a packing case containing it, or "bubble wrap", those sheets of clear plastic that have little bubbles all over it. Both are acceptable substitutes.

Moving yourself? Call up a reputable mover and see if you can buy some of the popcorn or bubble wrap. Most will sell you what you need. But be sure to wrap up the finished product in cloth that does not attract dust.

The idea behind all this is to immobilize your machine. Damage comes with movement.

Another tip is to read your owner's manuel. Many contain pointers on how to move your PC. If not, or you still have questions, do not hesitate to call the manufacturer or the store that sold you the system. Often items like disk drives or printers, for instance, have moving parts that must be anchored by tightening screws down. You loosen the screws when you set up the system again.

In any event, it's something you have to be concerned about, because chances are the mover won't be.

The basic moving price offered you by a commercial moving firm will most likely include some basic insurance, too. But it's not what you're going to want to have for your system because it's based on a per pound rate, something akin to $5 per pound. That won't get you very far with a 20 pound personal computer system costing $3,000.

Increase the insurance. You may expect to pay $5 per $1000 of valuation or more. The more expensive plans often include full replacement value.

As for those magnetic storage thingamabobs called floppy disks or tapes, Mullin has one sentence of advice for the individual faced with a move: move them in your car yourself.

"Those moving trucks can heat up greatly, particularly in the summer," he says. "Keep them away from heat and metal--to avoid static discharges that might damage them."